Update: On May 30, GSU announced it would postpone the GPB takeover of WRAS to June 29.
When you get up Saturday morning, consider finding a way to listen to WRAS from 10am to noon. Most of us listen to it via FM radio at 88.5, but there are apps and streams and such that also make it available.
This will be the final Saturday that WRAS will play a brilliant program called Adventures in Paradise, which calls itself “your weekly source of classic Exotica, Tropicalia, Calypso, Surf Rock, Lounge Singers, Rhumba, Mambo, Samba, Bossa Nova, and other Sunshine Music.” It’s a madcap, inspiring and very entertaining way to start a weekend.
Georgia State University has simply handed over most of WRAS-FM’s programming to GPB, and both entities have endured a much-deserved shitstorm over the last months. Said shitstorm is observable on GPB’s own Facebook page, or by visiting #saveWRAS on Twitter and such.
It’s deserved because WRAS is local, clever, influential, student-run and transgenerational. It is arguably the best college radio station in America. It’s stunning that GSU simply handed it over to GPB (minus evening and graveyard shift programming). The secrecy of the deal, and its unveiling as students were leaving campus at the conclusion of the spring semester, makes it heavyhanded and ugly.
GSU president Mark Becker finally met with WRAS staff after-the-fact, and staff came away with an impression that some modifications would take place (two weeks later, none has been announced).
Meantime, GPB is rapidly becoming the bad guy as they slowly roll out a programming lineup that will be rife with reruns of nationally syndicated shows like Car Talk and Prairie Home Companion, shows that are already quite available in Atlanta on WABE.
As I’ve written earlier, I like GPB but I love WRAS. There are backstage people at GPB I absolutely adore. It grieves me to see them having to keep their heads down as the shitstorm flies. (Poor Bill Nigut is listed as part of GPB’s new lineup, and is now becoming the face of evil in this controversy. Nigut has told me he found out about the WRAS takeover at the same time everyone else did.)
GPB is an honorable entity. It’s smart and avoids the foolishness of commercial broadcasting (pledge drives notwithstanding, Chip Rogers notwithstanding). Along with WABE, GPB covers Georgia’s capitol more thoroughly than most of Atlanta’s TV stations. GPB is fighting the good fight. GSU made the mistake, but GPB will be the face of it June 2.
Whenever GPB raises its WRAS-takeover profile, it only seems to make it worse. The latest is a GPB press release that inadvertently highlights just how screwed-over students are in this deal. Cue the soothing radio voice as you read:
Our partnership with Georgia State University helps Georgia State students open the door to their future. Now, internships in a professional media operation will be available to provide practical on the job experience that matters to potential employers.
Each year, interns play a vital role throughout GPB’s operations working alongside professionals in areas including television production, news, new media and beyond. (…)
In addition, students will also produce a 30-minute music program that will air as part of GPB’s new programming schedule from 5 a.m. – 7 p.m. on 88.5.
In other words, in exchange for 14 hours of students-produced content seven days a week, students get internships at GPB! And a thirty minute radio show!
All so GPB can run syndicated programming, plus a show hosted by Nigut.
Like Putin’s walk into Crimea, this takeover seems inevitable and unstoppable. GPB may lose a few donors in the short term, but is well positioned to eventually expand its takeover of WRAS. GSU’s secretiveness while cutting this deal shows that isn’t about Georgia State students, or a unique locally-produced entity with a 43 year history and a national profile. It’s about power politics.
Unless GPB decides otherwise. Its foot is irretrievably in the door at WRAS. But a compromise that gives WRAS back to students for most of the week — and maybe all of the weekends — would go a long way toward creating some some short-term goodwill for GPB as it launches.
Meantime, I’m going to listen to Adventures in Paradise one more time Saturday. It will be a really crappy start to my weekend.